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Respectful Discussions

Using 'Accountable Talk' To Express Your Opinion

Found in: Classroom Management

I have discovered something that is so impressive I feel compelled to share it with the world. It's an activity format called accountable talk. In a nutshell, this format creates an environment for opinion-based discussions, enabling students to communicate openly while maintaining extreme respect. There are only two basic rules and some structured phrasings:


Here are the two rules:

  1. Every student must follow the structured phrasings of questions or statements.
  2. If a student doesn't know another student's name, he or she must politely ask the name (never referring to a student as "him" or "her").

Structured Phrasings

To help students use the "accountable talk" format, teachers can make a chart of the phrasings or list them on the board or show them on an overhead projector. The phrasings should be displayed so that students can refer to them as they express their opinions:

"I believe _________ because..."
"I would like to agree with ________ because..."
"I would like to build on what ________ said..."
"I would like to disagree with what _________ said..."
"I need clarification on..."
"In other words, what you said was..."
"Can you give an example of that?"
"Yes, I can give an example..."

By using this format, students are required to listen to each other's words. In high school, I have found that it is increasingly difficult for students to move past stereotypes. But by insisting on a respectful conversation, you will ensure that it's what's in the mind of the students that matters.


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